There are some things I don’t know how to do, things I don’t know how to say. One of which is what to say to a grieving person. I don’t know why I have trouble finding the right words to use to soothe pain; pain caused by the loss of something or more importantly, someone. Perhaps it is because I am not in tune with my emotions-this too makes it almost impossible for me to cry despite the degree of hurt- or maybe I don’t have much words in my arsenal.
So as I walk into the sitting room where your wife is, sobbing quietly, comforters flanking her on the left and on the right, I don’t know what to say. I simply sit on one of the tiled stools and stare into space.
The room is choking, from overflowing emotions, from heavy hearts. My hands begin to perspire and I rub my palms repeatedly on my faded jean trouser. I cannot stand the heat anymore so I quietly step out. I can feel the gaze of the other visitors on my back. They are probably wondering if I am already done with the condolence, as if any amount of “condolensing” would be enough to bring you back, or replace you at least.
I am at the balcony, overlooking the jam-packed storied buildings cascading the slope of our street. Chief, our landlord walks in through the door. I don’t like how wide open the door is. Open to anyone who is humane enough-or at least pretends to be-to walk in and dispatch doses of condolence like they are dispensing sweetened Vitamin C tablets to primary school children.
Chief’s guttural voice draws my attention back to him. He is wearing a white agbada and a red cap for titled men. I can see his wristband, the one you gave him on his 60th birthday. It is on the hand he places on his big belly. The type of belly that screams stinking affluence, the type of belly we try to outrun whenever we jog from Nkpor to Ikpeba stadium at Awka road.
“Enyi kedu?” Chief flings the pleasantry at me and heads into the sitting room without waiting for my response.
After a while I go back into the sitting room, walking gingerly, fearing that my footsteps would give me a way as insensitive to the situation at hand. The stool I sat on earlier is occupied, so I move up to the dining and sit there.
Soon the visitors all leave and I am alone with your wife. Your wife of just 3 months. Tufiakwa! If only the car crash knew that you were newly married. If only death had waited till you fulfilled all your lofty dreams. If only this happened after you had gotten the daughter you so much wanted. But alas trouble does not blow a whistle, it comes upon one like a bandit, unexpectedly.
I join your wife on your favorite cushion, 3-in-1 as you call it. Nnenne your wife starts rambling. She is thanking me for coming to comfort her. I smile. She understands that I am grieving too. She understands that sometimes silence conveys more than speech. I look into her eyes. They are sunken yet beautiful like the view of a bar beach at sunset. I take her hand and squeeze. They are soft and sweaty, just like mine. I make to tell her that all is well but the words don’t come out, they stick to my throat. How can I say something I don’t believe?
Nnenne complains of headache and I tell her to drink water and sleep. She nods but does not move, instead she sweeps her feet off the ground, placing it on the other side of the cushion and then places her head on my thigh. We don’t say anything for long and soon the silence lulls us to sleep.
“Will you come again tomorrow?” Nnenne asks as I am about to go down that night to my flat on the first floor.
“Yes” I reply and she nods.
It’s 9pm, the next day, when I knock on the door. Nnenne opens with dissatisfaction all over her face.
“Did I come at a wrong time?”
“I was expecting you earlier,” she replies, with a tone betraying impatience, “the food I made for you had gone cold.”
I smile and thank her. She warms the food and serves me, I eat while we talk. She laughs -for the first time since you left – when I tell her that her food is tasty but cannot be tastier than mine.
“Your wife is lucky then, an extra hand in the kitchen.”
As it is characteristics of time, it flies and I make to stand but Nnenne bursts out,
“Can you stay the night?”
“Please would you spend the night here? It gets lonely here especially at night.” This time, her voice is not tentative like the first time when she sounded like someone asking for something outrageous; something forbidden.
“Okay.” I shrug.
I wake and glance at my phone, it’s lying beside me like a faithful spouse. It’s 3am and I am in a gigantic bed, a bed that I think is too selfish for only one person to sleep on. I turn to see a figure at the door.
She sighs and pauses, “the sheets still smell of him.”
Again, I don’t know what to tell her.
“Well, would you like to talk?” I ask her then begin to ask myself what she was going to talk to me about.
“Tell me about Mike” she says and sits on the bed. I sigh and start telling our stories, and slowly the darkness paves way for the morning light.
They say old habits die hard, but no one seems to notice that new ones are easily picked up. Soon it becomes a habit for me and Nnenne to spend the evenings together, talking and day by day, she unwraps herself, slowly and I begin to understand why you love her.
Nnenne opens the door for me again and the first thing I notice is her hair in a ruffle, like she had been in a fight. She says nothing as she steps aside to let me in.
She makes to move past me into the bedroom but I grab her hand.
“What is the matter” I ask.
She turns and throws herself at me and breaks down in tears. I feel sorry for her as I wrap my hands around her and smoother her hair, telling her that everything will be alright.
I hold her face in my hands, her lips are quivering as I taste the salty softness. Slowly, our hands work on each other, peeling off our clothes covering our aching flesh and soon our bodies join together, glistening from the heat of passion. I make her lie on the floor and make trips around her body, unearthing pleasure mines. She gasps loudly as I enter her and begin to stroke her gently, till she grabs my buttocks and push me deeper into her. I pick up pace, her moans urging me to quick orgasm. I stop and kiss her lips again, consequently slowing down the race to climax. We begin slowly again, her hands raking my back as I go back and forth, soon she spasms and clenches my hard member, causing me to reach the finish line almost instantly.
We lie side by side, breathing heavily from the exercise. After a while I stand and walk to the bathroom to clean myself, I look at my semi-erect member and I see something that shocks me.
You see that thing called guilt; it is a very wicked taskmaster. It will clothe you with filthy apparels and send you on a walk of shame and trepidation. I feel shame for myself and so in the following weeks, I avoid Nnenne like Nigerians avoided any type of body contact during the Ebola outbreak.
I am eating dinner in my apartment, yam and egg sauce, as I hear the knock on my door. I go and open the door and I see Nnenne, standing, looking all beautiful. Images of the last time resurface again for the umpteenth time.
“Come in.” I finally find my voice and tell her.
I return to my meal while her eyes glues to the television.
“How have you been?” I ask her, with my mouth half-full.
“I’m pregnant.” Nnenne says, rolling out the “Pregnant” casually as one would say “good morning” or “I’m fine” or “Hello”.
The food in my mouth turns bitter and I stop chewing and stare at her. She opens her bag and fetches a paper, a test result. She hands it out to me. I don’t collect the paper because I doubt the veracity of her statement, I do because that is what I think I am supposed to do.
I make move to speak but no sound leave my mouth as I look at the result.
“The child is yours David. You know that, don’t you?” I don’t respond and she continues, “Mike did not touch me throughout the three months of our marriage.”
Nnenne shrugs, makes for the door and replies, “I’ve been asking myself that too. Good night Dave.”
I feel my head spin and I hold on to the table to avoid falling.
Today is the day you will be laid to rest, the day everyone will -have to- come to terms with your death.
I am with the ambulance bringing your body home, to Igboukwu. The driver piloting the ambulance is a spirited fellow, he chatters on as if he isn’t aware that he is on a hallowed duty.
He is speeding exactly as I like it though, covering much distance in less time. His eyes glues to the smooth tar before him, the loud and pounding bass of Osadebe’s “Oso ndi, owe Ndi” masks the hissing sound of the tyres over the tarmac. He leans over to change track and in that instant he nearly rams into a broken-down car, he swerves quickly and that sends the car tumbling and knocking us about inside. I see the casket bearing your body burst out through the window and open, your body tumbling out, I hear shouts, a loud bang, a loud ringing in my ear and finally absolute silence and darkness.
“Hello David.” I hear a gentle call of my name.
I flick my eyes open and the first thing I see is you, staring at me with a wide grin.
About the Author
The author, Okeudo Emmanuel, is
Curious, a believer, reserved and in love with food.